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A Scranton couple has been arrested and charged after police found evidence of a 7-year-old boy locked in a coffin.
Neighbors found the child crying in a basement doorway clad only in a shirt and diaper. When police were called to the scene, the boy explained that his mother, Lori Gardner, and step-father, Brian Sleboda, had confined him in the family's basement.
He accused them of locking him in a coffin and taping him to a chair on multiple occasions.
When first questioned, Lori Gardner claimed the boy was locked in a coffin as part of a game, reports The Times-Tribune. The child asserts otherwise, and claims that his parents often locked him in the basement for full days.
The pair has been charged with felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful restraint. The house has also since been condemned as unsafe for human habitation, according to The Times-Tribune.
Few will argue that the coffin punishment doesn't rise to the level of child abuse. But what about raising a child in an unsafe home?
Parents are tasked with providing children with adequate shelter. Under many laws, failing to provide legally habitable housing is considered child neglect. This is especially true when the home presents a risk of serious harm to the child's welfare.
However, parents who only keep a child in an unsafe home don't normally face criminal charges. Social services will usually step in until better accommodations can be found. There is a general recognition that living conditions are often the result of poverty, not intentional neglect.
As for Scranton's Lori Gardner and Brian Sleboda, living conditions are the least of their problems. They had a boy locked in a coffin, and that trumps bugs and shoddy electricity any day.
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